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Another year, another Christmas, and another mad rush trying to put a card together. I probably should take care of them in July or something, but you know how it is… I’d miss the mad rush! Have fun making some sense of that. Of course, as artists and creators yourselves, you’ll know that sometimes a mad rush can lead to better results. I’ll let you be the judge in this instance. I rather like the colours at least; it rather makes me think of Quality Street wrappers and the “homemade 3D glasses” effect. The cool kids will know what I’m talking about.

I must admit to not feeling overly festive this year, but then, I feel like I’ve said that a lot in recent years. Perhaps it’s because these are trying times, or perhaps I’m turning into a grumpy old sod. I’m kidding, of course. I may be a grumpy sod, but it’s perfectly okay to not really be feeling it of a given year. The main event has yet to come and could change everything, and even if it doesn’t, we’ll be here again before you know it.

Of course, my malaise has not put me off Christmas music, which infiltrated my listening at the start of the month in its usual effort to inject some festivity, but is just a case of enjoying some good, warm music regardless. It had been quite a few years since I heard this classic – thank you, Spotify. Enjoy, and best wishes, from me to you, for the holiday season and beyond.

Letters play once again. This time, a trip back to the world of brutalism and its – as the name would imply – brash, hard-faced aesthetic. I am a fan.

Ironically, this dalliance began as something similarly geometric but rather more elegant, slicing up octagons and trying to create letters with very slender and narrow lines. At this moment I found myself wanting something bolder, not a headache, so I decided to leave it for further exploration at some other time, perhaps. Perhaps not.

The most fun had here was with the texturing, a hangover from the Twenty-Six Spins challenge of yesteryear, of which brutalism was a highlight. While the simple forms have an appeal of their own, it’s those grimy, utilitarian facades that really play to the theme.

And, of course, the nature of these letters leaves them open to the iterative process. The bars, stems and other assorted body parts can be thickened or narrowed to create diversity without losing the overall vibe. There seems to be a trend these days of using different sizes and weights together in typography so, there we go, I’m in with the crowd.

Later, I spotted that flipping the “R” made rather a nice “Y”. I like it when possibilities bring themselves to the fore.

Indeed, as often happens, this ended up pretty much driving itself. I get great reassurance from that, more and more as time goes on. It’s always fun.

Following on from the snowy conifers, we have a rather different take on the snappy winter weather, and a subject making its welcome return. Rejoice, the first windmill in over a year! And even that one was just an animation of a model made in 2017. The last one before that was a drawing back in March 2020.

Well, I must confess this isn’t entirely new, either. In fact, it’s a repurposing of several elements. It’s my Post Mill model from way back in 2016 (which was very much inspired by Stanton Mill in Suffolk) decked out with new sails and a coat of paint. I then added some grids, randomly distributing squares and rectangles which use textures I created years ago but still really enjoy playing with. While I have applied them to the mill model, using the favoured frontal projection, I really like creating bumpy, displaced 3D textures and sending them to a two-dimensional plane. That might sound counter-productive or plain silly, but the results are quite exciting to me. I’m a sucker for that harsh, icy aesthetic, and this method creates it in such a way that I probably couldn’t draw or paint, even if I tried. It’s possible that the end result is a little heavy-handed with the squares, but I do enjoy the frosty vibe. It’s not often I “frame” work, either, but I felt like it added a little something in this instance.

How nice to spin a few old bits and bobs into something new.

Here’s a curious little programme about windmills from more than half a century ago:

Brrr! Or not so brrr to be accurate, as it’s relatively mild here, the thick fog not really creating much of a marshmallow world or winter wonderland. There’s certainly not much of a chill placed in my heart; indeed, there’s something special about these days as we count down to the main event. A cosiness sets in at some indeterminate point. Possibly when all the shopping is done.

As the time to put together a Christmas card drew ever closer, I kept telling myself that, this time, I was going to try something more traditional; slower. A nice landscape drawing, maybe, or an intricate voxel model. Well, that turned out didn’t it? It’s always the way. There must be an angel, quite a mischievous one, playing tricks on me, but far from being a thorn in my side, they guided me to something different. I enjoyed it, and I guess that’s all that matters.

A peaceful, safe and happy holiday season to you all. Fill the bowl, roll out the barrel, and sweet dreams of your perfect winter wonderland.

Nerds of a certain age, rejoice! GamesMaster is back after almost twenty-four years, with a considerably longer running time and considerably fewer nob jokes. What’s more, the legendary Sir Trevor McDonald has succeeded Patrick Moore as the computerised couch potato, the titular Gamesmaster.

There isn’t much more to this little experiment; struck by once again seeing the lovely gothic ‘M’ which has ever adorned the GamesMaster logo, I fancied playing with some similar letterforms. Nerds rejoice once more.

After the usual dithering to start off, it was quite fun trying to create a harder, more angular counterpart to the the traditional flourishes of old English lettering – though, on some occasions, it might have helped to actually deviate from my beloved grid. They look quite brutal and industrious. It may be worth a full-on revisit at some point, perhaps attempting to introduce some curves and arcs.

By the way, the first episode of new GamesMaster is pretty good! Having been let down by so many of these big comebacks, I wasn’t expecting much at all, but they’ve actually done a fine job of not tampering with a winning formula and maintaining the delightfully cringeworthy spirit of the original. Whether such a show needs to exist in 2021 is perhaps up for debate, but there are only three episodes in this series so I say just enjoy it while it lasts!

A few weeks ago, I was approached on YouTube by Pacdude Games, who suggested collaborating to update his Countdown presentation package, for streams and such. This sounded exciting and I’ve always liked his work, so I said yes.

Thankfully, the majority of visual work had already been done, as I tackled the current Countdown set way back in January. This project was mostly tidying the set up, and placing cameras for rendering the clock sequence in a fashion that is somewhat faithful to the programme – making sure there is space in the lower third for the different puzzles which, helpfully, are not uniform. Also added was a retexturing for the crucial conundrum, which can now adopt mood lighting resembling that seen on the show.

This was good fun, and Cory’s coding has turned these elements into something I could only dream of creating. It’s always satisfying to see graphics actually being used.

Here’s the first Countdown Throwdown stream. It’s a good laugh! Hopefully there will be more. You can also find Pacdude Games here.

It’s decidedly less spiky than my last typographical effort, but not completely without a point – well, one hopes.

This was another speedy task, with only a couple of hours to make an alphabet. Don’t let my enthusiasm fool you; it remains a fun and invigorating challenge. With those time constraints in mind, I tried to stay simple and decided to create letters on a 3×3 grid, connecting pieces together. I set myself one rule: that each character should be diverse enough to accommodate at least one of each piece – a straight, a slant and a curve.

The result is a hybrid face of both smooth and rigid forms, and hopefully that’s enough to carry it. The systematic nature meant that the project lent itself to the iterative process, with pieces being substituted in and out and creating recognisable variants. Then, it was just a case of choosing my favourite. But I could have sat switching parts for much longer than I did. As fun as that would be, having the time limit makes everything more immediate, quite literally.

As my favourite school calculator used to say, it’s hip2b₂.

Back to lettering. The old faithful.

It’s somewhat traditional at this stage for me to moan about not having done much lately, but this seems to have been a particularly long dry spell, with nothing really working out for what felt like months. I feel weird when not creating anything – it’s unnerving. Last week, though, something fun and game show-y came along, which was nice – but that’s another post for another time. Tick tock.

Getting rather desperate, I turned back to my rope letters from 2019 and decided to try and convert them to barbed wire. It turned out to be reassuringly simple, just requiring adjustments to the spline rotation and the addition of the “barbs”.

Though I started in 3D, I found myself moving to 2D aswell. A very quick attempt at making a barbed wire brush in Illustrator yielded these developments. It seems to have become more scraggy than I originally intended; almost like thread, or lightning on the black background. But still, fun to explore and yes, something has emerged at long last.

And that’s a suitably inviting message on which to end.

I’m taking a trip back to 2018 for this post which, yes, you guessed it, seems like a lifetime ago now. These geometric grid pieces were given the working title Summer Nights and attempted to abstract a warm vibe with vivid and electric colours. I believe the ultimate goal was to make letters out of them, but unfortunately they were not finished before they were abandoned.

However, revisiting these in 2021 created the germ of the ideas that have appeared in recent weeks, so they are now pertinent.

Indeed the new pieces were made on the same files as the 2018 work, hence the similar colours and style. Some do stick out rather, though; even more once I dragged them kicking and screaming into Photoshop for some filtering fun.

Perhaps it says something that, after all of this experimentation, I ended up going back to the very first idea and really found it to be the most enjoyable process. Maybe I will try and put some letters together after all, although saying I might do something on here seems to be the kiss of death for my productivity! Fingers crossed for an exception to the rule.

So there we are: what’s old is new again. if you don’t like it now, put it away but don’t bin it. You might need it in three years.

I thought the logical progression from my previous post was to release some other shapes into the fray. Triangles are fun, but circles too? And semi-circles? Kid in a candy store, here. My intentions were of a similar natural, springlike bent and sure enough, I came up with some designs which rather fit the theme.

The usual Photoshop breaking and making followed.

Then I started playing with the circular and mostly symmetrical nature of these, cutting a quarter of each piece, flipping it and rotating around the centre. Quite possibly, this is some of the gaudiest work I have ever created; I tend to design patterns in black and white or a limited selection of colours. That’s just how I was taught. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with leaving the comfort zone and going all out.

At first I was thinking seamless floor tiles, but the ‘boldness’ of these brought to mind the interesting wallpaper choices of the mid-to-late twentieth century, coming out of the war and injecting some much needed colour into life. When my parents moved into their house back in 1976, apparently every room was done up in contrasting colours and patterns – bright purples, yellows, greens. They soon got rid of all that!

Imagine your boudoir done up with these bad boys:

I don’t think I’ll be snapped up by Changing Rooms anytime soon; Lawrence Llewelyn-Bowen, you’re safe for now. But don’t let my sneering give the impression I didn’t have fun. This was an absolute blast!